Acting as a catalyst for change in the male-dominated profession of fishing, Jaljeevika has not only given women financial independence but also given them social recognition in their communities. The ‘Matsya Sakhis’, as mentioned, are responsible for instructing the farmers on how to prepare the pond, maintain the quality of pond water and raise fish on a daily basis. With women acting as the backbone of the programme, this initiative by Jaljeevika has helped build women as farmers and fisheries extension agents.
This is how it works
Jaljeevika worked with 576 farmers in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district. Through the Krishi Mangal program, the Pune-based NGO was able to increase average income by 77 percent over the previous year. It has also created 132 micro-entrepreneurs including 15 Matsya Sakhis across the fisheries value chain under the programme.
By bringing female extension agent – Matsya Sakhi – to the center stage, using digital technology like IOT-based sensor to engage with government programs and provide pond-based advice to farmers, Jaljeevika is revolutionizing and helping to transform the aquaculture value chain. is a sustainable source of livelihood.
Socio-economic progress of women
Matsya Sakhis are responsible for imparting holistic technical knowledge of pond maintenance to the farmer. They track their experiences with farmers and provide hands-on support in monitoring processes at the farmer’s end. “We guide farmers on how to prepare their ponds, provide them with quality seeds and the fish feed they need. We are also responsible for teaching farmers how to test pond water and ensure water quality.” explains Matsya Sakhi Prajakta.
Prior to this initiative, women were associated with women’s self-help groups for credit and savings programs, where not only their earnings but also their social recognition were minimal. The ‘Matsya Sakhi’ initiative has helped them build more self-confidence and generate substantial income for their households.
“These women have come forward as torchbearers of knowledge in a male-dominated society. For us, real victory is not only economic impact, but also dignity and social recognition.” he says Neelkanth MishraFounder & CEO, Jaljeevika.
One of the biggest challenges Jaljeevika faced was attracting women as leads to hire. The challenge was initially met with great public opposition, as the assessment of the pond involved traveling long distances. With the support of their families, Matsya Sakhis was able to overcome the obstacle.
Additionally, the limited movement due to the ongoing pandemic has not only slowed the supply of IoT sensors, but also delayed the pilot. Untimely rains and a limited supply of fish seeds are other factors that help reduce the potential impact of the program.
However, ecosystem partnerships like Project Amplify, Frugal Labs, Daynil and UMED have helped a lot in overcoming various challenges.
The Shabari initiative of the Tribal Department of Maharashtra has also played an important role in making women more self-reliant. With Jaljeevika’s support, Mahila Navnirman Mandal successfully received a grant of Rs 80 lakh from the initiative. Increasing capital from key government programs not only gave them access to better opportunities, but also instilled confidence in their vision.
The role of Krishi Mangal in enhancing impact on the ground
Jaljeevika credits the Krishi Mangal program for helping to integrate technology and data analytics with social process. The program has helped a lot in expanding the idea to reach millions of fishermen across the country. Jaljeevika has benefited greatly in terms of evaluation, technology improvement, making the system more robust and user-friendly for fish farmers from small to marginal categories.
Although physical interaction using extension services and local community intervention helped farmers to some extent, it was not scalable and made it very difficult to reach larger numbers of people in different geographies. However, the Krishi Mangal program helped Jaljeevika test the idea of using digital input-based services to help scale across different topographies. Similar integrated solutions can be provided and used across the country, and stakeholder engagement can also be used through different community members in different geographical areas.
“Thanks to the Krishi Mangal initiative, we tested the possibilities of massive expansion through technological intervention,“ adds Neelkanth.
Krishi Mangal has been instrumental in digitizing the process of bringing technology and knowledge to remote parts of society. Validation and testing of technology developed for fish farming, integration of value chain stakeholders and support from government agencies are some of the important roles played by Krishi Mangal in enhancing Jaljeevika’s on-ground impact.
“We aim to make it a common interaction platform, primarily through technology and apps, but also through this physical space. It will be a platform that brings together the entire aquaculture value chain,” Neelkanth says.
Before the Krishi Mangal initiative, the annual income from 570 fish ponds in Yavatmal district was about Rs 1.8 crore, after the introduction of Krishi Mangal practices, the latest data shows that the annual income has increased to Rs 3.9 crore. The program helped double farmers’ incomes in just one year by following the practices and extension agents monitored the processes.
After the Krish Mangal initiative, there has been a huge increase in the number of aqua schools. “We are developing more aqua schools in larger parts of Maharashtra, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. By the time we reach 1,000 aqua schools, that means reaching 1 billion farmers through extension and market linkages. This is another process approval we received during the Krishi Mangal initiative,“ Neelkanth taunts.
The impact of Krishi Mangal is commendable in creating various routes to generate income. There has been a huge increase in interest from government agencies, banks, research institutes and stakeholders. As everyone moves forward to build more community partnerships, the future describes a new phase of relationships and partnerships in the digital platform as well as in the aqua school model.